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Islanders' airtight system denying opponents quality shots

Thomas Greiss  of the New York Islanders

Thomas Greiss  of the New York Islanders makes a save during the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center on Nov. 30, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

To hear Josh Bailey, there is no special formula to the success the Islanders have experienced this season.

Rather, in his view, their record is a result of the players executing the team’s system.

“We’re just playing the way we’ve kind of grown accustomed to,” Bailey said after practice Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center. “We’re getting the results that we’re looking for. Great goaltending, [and] for the most part, our special teams have been on. It’s a good recipe for winning.”

The Islanders (22-7-2), who have won three in a row and four of five, will host Nashville on Tuesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders outscored Tampa Bay, Florida and Buffalo 11-4 in winning the three straight games. Dating to the 3-2 overtime win over Vegas on Dec. 5, they have a 15-9 advantage in goals scored. But they have been outshot by an aggregate 170-146 in the five games and did not record more shots on goal than their opponent in any of the games in that stretch.

The Islanders have a minus-6.7 shots on goal per game in their last three games. Nashville was plus-10 in its last three games before Monday night, when they were outshot 41-24 in a 5-2 victory over the Rangers. Over the course of the season, the Predators’ plus-5.5 was second best in the league, behind only Los Angeles, while the Islanders’ minus-3.6 was 28th.

But there is a debate in hockey circles about shot quantity versus quality, and the Islanders very well could be Exhibit A for the argument that the quality of shots allowed is more significant than the overall number of shots against.

Just ask Thomas Greiss.

“It’s more predictable for us,” he said when asked how the defensive structure eases the workload for him and fellow goaltender Semyon Varlamov. “Less opportunities or less options for [opposing] players with the puck. Just a shot or maybe one pass, few options.

“It makes our [lives] easier.”

The Islanders have allowed a league-low 72 goals.

“[We] might give up a good amount of shots at times — or more shots — but we take the middle away and don’t give them rush chances,” Greiss said. “Cut those way down. It’s successful.”

Notes & quotes: The Islanders recalled Tom Kuhnhackl from AHL Bridgeport on Monday, and he practiced. Kuhnhackl played four games with the Sound Tigers while on a conditioning stint after suffering a lower-body injury in the Islanders’ 4-2 victory over the Senators on Oct. 25. He had two assists for Bridgeport with two penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating. When asked if Kuhnhackl will play against the Predators, coach Barry Trotz said, “We’ll probably decide that more [Tuesday] than we will today.” . . . Michael Dal Colle (upper-body injury) did not practice but Trotz said he is “day-to-day.” Trotz also said Nick Leddy (lower body) is “in the mix” to dress for Tuesday night’s game . . . After practice, players brought holiday gifts to children in hospitals in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Brooklyn.

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